Dealer’s choice: Pedro, Beckett and Sale
This is what Tuesday’s trade for Chris Sale looks like from a historical perspective:
For the third time in 19 years, the Red Sox pulled off a blockbuster trade for a young ace. If the Sale deal works out like the trades for Pedro Martinez and Josh Beckett — no guarantees, of course — the Red Sox are looking at another World Series title in their future. (Rick Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young Award winner, was a №4 starter when Ben Cherington acquired him from Detroit prior to the 2015 season).
On Nov. 18, 1997, Red Sox GM Dan Duquette acquired Pedro Martinez from the Montreal Expos for right-hander Carl Pavano, who at the time was ranked the №2 prospect in the Sox system, and a player to be named later (a month later, pitcher Tony Armas Jr. was sent to the Expos to complete the deal).
On Thanksgiving night, Nov. 24, 2005, with GM Theo Epstein having temporarily fled the premises in a gorilla suit, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, relying heavily on the input of top aides Bill Lajoie and Craig Shipley, acquired Josh Beckett (along with third baseman Mike Lowell and reliever Guillermo Mota) from Florida for shortstop Hanley Ramirez and pitchers Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado and Harvey Garcia.
On Tuesday, GM Dave Dombrowski acquired Sale from the White Sox for infielder Yoan Moncada, pitchers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz, and outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe. Moncada was ranked Boston’s №2 prospect by Baseball America behind outfielder Andrew Benitendi and was honored Monday night as BA’s Minor League Player of the Year. Kopech, whose fastball has reached triple digits, was rated №4. Basabe came in at №8. Great talent does not come cheaply, especially when you factor in the $61 million the Sox paid for Moncada in signing bonus and tax penalties.
Let’s review the trades one by one:
THE PEDRO DEAL: Martinez, of course, became the dominant pitcher of his generation en route to the Hall of Fame, winning two Cy Young Awards for the Red Sox while posting a staggering .760 winning percentage, going 117–37 in his seven seasons with the Red Sox. With Martinez teaming with Curt Schilling, who was 37 when the Red Sox acquired him in the 2003 off-season, the Sox won their first World Series in 86 years in 2004.
Pavano, who was 22 at the time of the trade, never won more than eight games in parts of five seasons with the Expos before being dealt to the Florida Marlins. He had a breakout season with Florida in 2002, when he went 18–8 with a 3.00 ERA in 2004, but had only one other season, 2010, with a sub-4 ERA.
Armas Jr., the son of former Red Sox outfielder Tony Armas, never established himself in 10 seasons with four teams, compiling an overall record of 53–65 with a 4.65 ERA.
WINNER: Red Sox, easily, though it should be noted that Expos GM Jim Beattie was forced by financial considerations to deal his ace less than a month after his 26th birthday.
THE BECKETT DEAL: Beckett, who turned 26 in May of his first season with the Red Sox, already had been named a World Series MVP after pitching the 2003 Series clincher against the Yankees at age 23. He struggled in his first season with the Red Sox, when he gave up 36 home runs and posted a 5.01 ERA, but had the best season of his career in 2007, when he won 20 games, posted a 3.27 ERA and had a fantastic postseason, winning four games while allowing just 4 earned runs in 30 innings. Beckett pitched parts of seven seasons for the Sox, going 89–58 with a 4.17 ERA, and was the acknowledged leader of the Sox pitching staff until his trade in 2012.
Lowell, meanwhile, was anything but a throw-in, hitting .400 to win World Series MVP in 2007 and posting an .814 OPS in five seasons with the Sox before hip issues ended his playing career.
Ramirez was the №1 prospect in the Sox system at the time of the deal, and lived up to expectations in his first season with Florida, winning the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award after hitting 17 home runs, stealing 51 bases and posting an .833 OPS. He won a batting championship three years later, hitting .342 and finishing second in the MVP balloting, and was a three-time All-Star with the Marlins. But Florida never made it to the postseason with Ramirez, and after he clashed with manager Fredi Gonzalez, the Marlins ultimately soured on him and dealt him in 2012 to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he went to the postseason twice.
Sanchez, who was the №5 prospect in the Sox system, became a solid major league starter with the Marlins, but two days before Ramirez was traded to L.A. he was dealt to the Tigers. His best season came in 2013, when he led the AL with a 2.57 ERA.
WINNER: Both teams profited from this deal, and Ramirez and Sanchez remain productive big leaguers, Hanley having come full circle back to the Red Sox. But the World Series title in 2007 should give the Sox no regrets about making this trade.
THE SALE DEAL: Sale will be 28 by Opening Day next season. Since becoming a starter in 2012, Sale has been an All-Star in each of the last five seasons, and has finished no lower than sixth in the Cy Young Award voting over that span.
He is one of five pitchers who have made at least 100 starts in that span to average better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings (10.04).
He is one of 11 pitchers (100 or more starts) to average fewer than two walks per nine innings (1.98).
He is one of 7 pitchers (100 or more starts) with an ERA of 3.05 or lower (3.05).
He is one of 7 pitchers (100 or more starts) who has allowed 7.6 hits or fewer per nine innings (7.58).
He is one of 8 pitchers (100 or more starts) with a Fielding Independent Percentage (which measures a pitcher’s effectiveness at preventing home runs, walks and hit batsmen while causing strikeouts) of 3.06 or under (3.06).
He has been elite, by any measure. And he is signed to an extremely team-friendly deal, one in which the Red Sox will pay him $12 million next season while holding options for 2018 ($12.5 million) and 2019 ($13.5 million).
Dombrowski acknowledged Tuesday he expects Moncada to be an All-Star player, while adding that a healthy Kopech has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. You don’t look to trade such players, he said. But Sale gives the Sox a chance to win it all next season, and did not cost the Sox any of the young stars already on the roster (Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi).
The Sox won with Martinez and Beckett. Will Sale make it a trifecta? Stay tuned.